Ground Crew volunteers

This website is exclusively dedicated to volunteers from the West Indies who became aircrew. But many more served as ground crew and their contributions and sacrifices should not be forgotten.

Approximately 6,500 volunteers enlisted in the Caribbean after recruiting began in September 1943. Of these, around 5,500 came to Britain to serve during WW2. About 4,000 airmen, who came in two main contingents in 1944, did their initial training in Britain at RAF Hunmanby Moor, Filey, Yorkshire.

A Roll of Honour comprising the names of men who trained at Filey, compiled by researcher Audrey Dewjee, is published on the African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire Project’s website, as well as a number of articles about these men:

West-Indian ground crew
Ground crew volunteers

Former ground crew men and their families are invited to submit their stories to the website via the contact page. Stories already submitted can be read on this link: RAF recruits in WW2

Mrs Dewjee also published articles about men of the Windrush Generation who served in the RAF on the website Historycal Roots:

Alford Dalrymple Gardner
Charles Austin Dawkins

The final 1,500 recruits who came to Britain in the third contingent, which arrived in March 1945, did their initial training at RAF Melksham in Wiltshire.

[Click the links to continue]

A wonderful new book for children (and adults) — The Story of Britain’s Black Airmen

Britains Black Airmen cover

This new book by Kandace Chimbiri celebrates the inspiring contributions of people of African descent to British aviation.  From pilots to ground crew, and with tales from across the globe, the story of Britain’s Black airmen is an important part of the history of flying.  By aiming for the skies, many of them helped to bring about changes that are still making our world a better place.

This is the third of Kandace’s history books for Scholastic following on from The Story of the Windrush and The Story of Afro Hair, all three of which would make wonderful birthday or Christmas presents.

The Book Depository deliver worldwide with free delivery. In the UK and Ireland it will be widely available from all good bookshops and of course Amazon.

Eugene Bullard, The Black Swallow of Death

The amazing story of an African-American pilot in the First World War as told by The History Guy.

Caribbean Airmen 1914-1945

Caribbean Airmen 1914-1945

An overview of the men from the Caribbean who flew for the RAF and their experiences as captured by Captain Mark Johnson. A beautifully designed presentation delivered at the RAF Museum and for Black History Month. Various aspects of this often forgotten part of British history are highlighted by the experiences of individual men.

Download PDF(file size ± 10Mb)

William Robinson Clarke 2-2B

Britain’s first black pilot

The website of the RAF Museum honours Sergeant William Robinson Clarke, Britain’s first black pilot, who received his Wings on 26 April 1917. Read his story here.

Caribbean Volunteers at War now available

The story of the RAF’s answer to the Tuskegee Airmen written by researcher Mark Johnson. Read more about the book here or see our Books section.

Now available in e-book format For King & Country – The Service and Sacrifice of the British West Indian Military

The book published by Irving Andre and Gabriel Christian in 2009 is now available online in e-book format at Shelf Wise. Read the press release here. Read more about the book here.

The Motherland Calls – Britain’s Black Servicemen & Women 1939-1945

A Tribute to the forgotten black servicemen and women whose contribution to the war effort has been overlooked until now. Read more here. Stephen Bourne is a leading authority on black history and has published 11 books on the subject, including A Ship and a Prayer, Black in the British Frame, Speak of Me as I Am and Mother Country. You can watch a TV-interview with the author here.

The Caribbean Connection

In 2006 the RAF-magazine Spirit of the Air published an article titled ‘The Caribbean Connection’ written by Val Simpson. The article features some interesting pictures and mentions the careers of Squadron Leader Ulric Cross and Flight Lieutenants Arthur Wint, Vincent Bunting and John Ebanks. Link to the article

Under One Flag

How indigenous and ethnic peoples of the Commonwealth and British Empire helped Great Britain win World War II This book by Erica Myers-Davies tells the stories of the unsung heroes and heroines of World War II from across the world. With personal forewords from Prince Harry and Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC, the first serving recipient of the Victoria Cross since 1969, it emphasises the vital contribution made by those from the Commonwealth and British Empire who volunteered during World War II. HRH The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh KG KT (Grand President of The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League) will be present when the book is launched in Canada House at an event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, James R. Wright. [Nov. 5th, 2009] More.

They also flew

S/L Ulric Cross of Trinidad: DFC, DSO, Judge, ambassador, High Commissioner F/L Dudley Thompson, OC, QC of Jamaica: lawyer, Pan-African activist, Order of Jamaica F/O Errol Barrow of Barbados: Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Minister of Foreign Affairs F/L Michael Manley of Jamaica: Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, Member of House of Representatives F/L Edward Dalrymple of Dominica: Mayor, vice-president of Dominica Freedom Party, Professor of History, City College of New York, Princeton, Rutgers Universities F/L Arthur Wint of Jamaica: Olympic Gold Medalist, OBE, MBE, High Commissioner

This site aims to provide a permanent archive of the volunteers from the West Indies who flew for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. The general public in the United Kingdom and elsewhere is scarcely aware of the involvement of Caribbean crew in the airwar of 1940-1945. In 1940, no so-called ‘men of colour’ could have joined the Royal Air Force; but by the end of the war in 1945, there were between 300 and 500 aircrew from the Caribbean out of a total of around six thousand volunteers who served during World War 2. About seventy were commissioned and one hundred and three received decorations. Yet these facts are not generally known even to the present Black British population in Britain. Since so little is recorded, we encourage surviving crew as well as their relatives and descendants to add to this body of information. Anyone who has a story to tell, information to share, or pictures to show is heartily invited to contribute to this website. How does this site work? The main body of this site consists of a list of names of aircrew that are known to us. The names are accessible either by country of origin, rank or decoration or by entering a name in the search-box. Each entry offers the option to add a comment.Here you can submit your information regarding the individual concerned. Pictures are best sent directly with a reference to the webmaster, who will place them in the entry.

Funeral Service for Flight Sergeant Peter Brown

Hundreds of members of the public, members of the armed forces, representatives of the Caribbean community, friends and neighbours attended the funeral of Flight Sergeant Peter Brown on May 25th in St. Clement Danes church in Westminster. He was one of the last surviving so-called ‘Pilots of the Caribbean’.

[Picture by Victoria Jones; Read the complete report by BBC News here.]

F:S PeterBrown

Ex-Flt. Sgt. Peter Brown died alone in his flat in Westminster on 17 December 2022, aged 96. To date no relatives have been discovered and strenuous efforts are being made by the officials at Westminster City Council, the undertaker, various RAF and RAFA members and organisations, as well as Black History enthusiasts, to ensure that Mr. Brown has a funeral befitting his importance as one of the last (possibly the last) West Indian members of WW2 RAF aircrew in Britain.

The original date and venue for the funeral service had to be moved to accommodate the very many well-wishers who have expressed the wish to attend. Now the service is to be held at St Clement Danes, the RAF Central Church, in Westminster on 25 May 2023 at 11am. 

More details on the website of the City of Westminster:

Allan Bundy: first black pilot in the RCAF

Flying Officer Allan S. Bundy was the first Canadian-born black pilot to fly for the RCAF. He flew mostly Beaufighters and later Mosquito’s for 404 Squadron RCAF, named ‘The Buffaloes’ and participated in over 40 attacks, many against enemy shipping along the Norwegian coast. Read his story on the website of the Canadian Gouvernment here.

Workshop ‘Freedom Fighters: Diverse Identities in the RAF’

RAF-museum workshop

The RAF Museum London, supported by the Institute of Historical Research, is staging a workshop entitled Freedom Fighters: Diverse Identities in the RAF on the morning of Saturday 20 November this year 2021. The workshop is about the African, Caribbean, South Asian and Irish volunteers that served in RAF despite being opposed to British colonial rule in their home countries.

The event is moderated by Dr Harry Raffal, who says: “Freedom Fighters takes place within the context of the rapidly evolving debate about Britain’s imperial past, with the issues of slavery, the growth of nationalism and the cultural legacy of empire under close examination. The event is timely as it comes shortly before landmark anniversaries in the histories of Indian, Caribbean and Irish independence.”

The individual experiences of three volunteers will be considered in detail: Noor Inayat Khan from India; Errol Walton Barrow from Barbados; and Irishman Robert Gregory (see pictures above).

For more information please visit the website of the RAF Museum.

Heroes Of The Caribbean (WW2 Documentary) | Timeline

A Channel 4 film about West Indian ex-servicemen and women who served in the British forces in both world wars. The personalities include a soldier who fought for the English regiment in WWII, a pilot who joined the ATS, plus other individuals who were in the ground crew in the RAF. The film traces the story of these individuals from those early war years through to Enoch Powell’s era in 1968 when he requested these servicemen return to their home country.

The Black RAF by Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson talks about his great-uncle John Jellicoe Blair, one of almost 500 Black Caribbean air crew in the RAF during the Second World War

Caribbean Spitfire-pilots

14, 132 Sqdn,RAF Detling, JJ Caulton front row, 5th from rightPilots of No. 132 City of Bombay Squadron (Detling, 1943-1944), featuring three Caribbean Spitfire-pilots (click on photo to enlarge):

F/Sgt James Joseph Hyde (from Trinidad) – front row, third from left.

F/Sgt Arthur O. Weeks (or Weekes, from Barbados) – back row, fourth from left.

F/Sgt Collins Alwyin Joseph (from Trinidad) – back row, sixth from right.

Other identified pilots are:

Commanding Officer S/Ldr Count Franz Ferdinand Colloredo-Mansfeld DFC (1910-1944, born in Italy from an Austrian father and an American mother) – front row, center.

F/Lt Harold Edward ‘Harry’ Walmsley (British) – front row, eight from left.

F/O John Jeremy Caulton (from New Zealand) – front row, fifth from right.

Henry Lacey Smith (Australian) – front row, fourth from right.

Kenneth Langley Charney (Argentinian) – back row, sitting on starboard wing next to cockpit

[picture: copyright John Caulton, grandson of F/O J.J. Caulton]

Combat Film No 73. Flying Officer Weekes of 132 Squadron on 21/12/1943 at 1200, flying Supermarine Spitfire IX. Target: Focke-Wulf Fw 190. Fragment No. 73 is at 8:00 minutes into the film, which features a number of fragments from 132 Squadron.

[Copyright Imperial War Museum; courtesy John Caulton]

Blue Plaque to commemorate RAF-veteran Cy Grant

On November 11, Rememberance Day 2017 a Blue Plaque was unveiled at the former Highgate home of the initiator of this archive, the actor, singer and writer Cy Grant. Read more about it here.

West Indian Aircrew in East Yorkshire during WW2

Researcher – and highly valued contributor to this archive – Mrs. Audrey Dewjee has published an article about West Indians who served as aircrew in the RAF in the East Yorkshire area during the war. The article highlights well-known Jamaicans Billy Strachan, Lincoln Lynch, Arthur Wint, John Blair, Godfrey Petgrave as well as Vivian Florent, whose father was from St. Lucia. It is published on the website of the Africans in Yorkshire Project.
The website also remembers the 4,000 Caribbean ground crew men who trained in the area at RAF Hunmanby Moor, Filey. For more about them, click here.

E.R. Braithwaite, former RAF pilot and author of To Sir, With Love dies at 104

Edward Ricardo Braithwaite was born from university-educated parents in Georgetown, British Guiana in 1912. He was one of the first Caribbeans to join the RAF during the Second World War. After the war he got his doctorate in physics from Cambridge University but failed to find work as an engineer in post-war Britain. Instead he landed a job as a teacher in London’s East End. His acclaimed book ‘To Sir, With Love’ (1959) is based on his experiences there. After publication of the book he worked for the World Veterans Organisation, Unesco and as a diplomat for his native Guyana. He passed away on 12 December 2016.
Read his obituary in the Guardian and more about his life and career.

Digital Archive Project – International Bomber Command Centre: Looking for surviving veteran Caribbean Aircrew that flew for Bomber Command

The International Bomber Command Digital Archive Project is pulling resources together from all over the world to form the definitive central source of information on Bomber Command. Incorporating oral histories and videographies, never before digitized documents held by museums and institutions worldwide and those in private ownership. These will include log books, photographs, letters and service citations all pulled together in an indexed and searchable archive before the story is lost forever. Therefore preserving the rich heritage of the Command and ensuring the memory of those who served is available for generations to come.

For the oral-history section of the digital archive the curators would like to interview any veterans from the West-Indies that flew for Bomber Command that are still with us. Please contact Mr. Peter Jones of the project or the administrator of this website.

Here is a link to the International Bomber Command Centre website: And the digital archive:

‘Pilots of the Caribbean’ online now

The online version of the exhibition ‘Pilots of the Caribbean’: Volunteers of African Heritage in the Royal Air Force  is now available at . The original exhibition has been curated by the RAF Museum in partnership with the Black Cultural Archives. It has been on display in various venues throughout the UK and received much acclaim (see below). On Saturday 31 October 2015 the Black History Month Event will be held in the RAF Museum. There will be talks about RAF’s African-Caribbean volunteers and performances by storyteller Winston Nzinga. Also documents and artefacts relating to Black personnel will be on display. Read more:

Exhibition ‘Pilots of the Caribbean’ awarded for Excellence

Pilots of the Caribbean: Volunteers of African Heritage in the RAF was given a Highly Commended Award in the ‘Best Temporary Exhibition’ category at the Museums and Heritage Awards 2015 held in London on 29th April. The exhibition had been shortlisted for this year’s Museums and Heritage Awards for Excellence. The exhibition about the contribution of volunteers of African Heritage to the Royal Air Force was nominated in the category ‘Temporary or Touring Exhibitions’. The touring tribute to West Indian flyers was initiated by the RAF-museum London in cooperation with the Black Cultural Archives. Read the Press-release of the RAF-museum here.

Flt. Lt. Clifton Norman Rhys Pinks (1923-2014)

We have been informed by his family that F/Lt Clifton Norman Rhys Pinks passed away on September 7, 2014. In 1941, he volunteered to train as an officer in the Royal Air Force, based in Canada, and came to England in 1943 as a Signalman Air Gunner. After the war, he went to Aberdeen University to study medicine and was involved in top level athletics. The press alluded to Clifton as the ‘Dark Flash’. In 1950 he returned to the RAF and served with distinction till 1978. Untill 1988 he worked for the Ministry of Defence. Read more here


Exhibition ‘Pilots of the Caribbean’ opens in Cosford

The exhibition  ‘Pilots of the Caribbean: Volunteers of African Heritage in the Royal Air Force’ will open at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford on October 6th 2014. The exhibition opening will coincide with Black History Month, a national event celebrating the achievements of black men and women throughout history. Curated in partnership with the Black Cultural Archives, the exhibition will tell the inspirational story of these volunteers, commemorating and celebrating their vital contribution to the defence of Britain, her Empire and Commonwealth. Accompanying video footage and artefacts will bring to life the stories of these brave volunteers. Read more here.

Exhibition ‘RAF and the Commonwealth – Stories from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean’ opening in Glasgow on 21 July 2014

The exhibition will tell the story of the important role that African, Asian and Caribbean airmen and women have played throughout the history of the RAF, from its inception in 1918 until the present day. The WW2 history of 602 Squadron (City of Glasgow) – ‘Glasgow’s Own’ will also be part of the presentation that underlines the critical role that volunteers from across the Empire, the Dominions, the Commonwealth and Allied nations played in defeating the scourge of fascism. The exhibition also provides information on the importance of equality and diversity as core values in today’s RAF. At the Mitchell Library Exhibition Space, 22 July – 27 September 2014, admission is free. Download the poster here. View a TV-report of the opening here.

The Passing of Squadron Leader Phillip Louis Ulric Cross, DSO, DFC

We received the sad news that Phillip Louis Ulric Cross has died in Port of Spain, Trinidad at the age of 96 on October 4, 2013. Cross was the highest ranking West Indian World War II veteran still alive and one of the few officers left of the legendary 139 Pathfinder Squadron of RAF Bomber Command. Cross later became Attorney General of Cameroon, and an esteemed judge in Ghana and Tanzania. After his return to Trinidad he served as a High Court Judge and from 1979 as a member of the Court of Appeal. In 1990 he became High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago to the UK and Ambassador to Germany and France. Watch the video “On Target – A Tribute to RAF Squadron Leader Phillip Louis Cross, DSO, DFC” on YouTube [Proclamations by Ethiopian Crown Council and Maryland General Assembly; click on images for lager version] Read the obituary in the Trinidad & Tobago Newsday here. More: Trinidad Guardian, Trinidad Express [Courtesy Jerome Lee]

Pilots of the Caribbean: Volunteers of African Heritage in the Royal Air Force

The RAF Museum London and subsequently the RAF Museum Cosford will celebrate the Afro-Caribbean contribution to the RAF – the first service to instigate an equal ops policy. Beginning with WWI through to WWII and The Cold War to currently serving members, the exhibition will include personal recollections, photos and more. The exhibition will open in London 1st November 2013 and run for six months, after which it will transfer to Cosford for a further six months. In the press: The Times, The Jamaica Gleaner, Blacknet, RAF-MOD,

West Indians in Britain (1944)

In this film, made during the Second World War by the Ministry of Information, a group of West Indians, led by Una Marson and Learie Constantine, assemble at Broadcasting House in London. They describe to listeners of a popular BBC radio series, ‘Calling the West Indies’, how people from the Caribbean are supporting the war effort. Constantine speaks about factory workers, and introduces some war-workers, including Ulric Cross, a bomber navigator from Trinidad. Cross speaks of West Indian volunteers in the armed forces and Spitfire-pilot James Hyde (killed in action later in the war) is portrayed briefly.

[Adaptation of the original caption by Stephen Bourne; You-tube link courtesy Peter Devitt, RAF Museum London]